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Roaming Gnome | profile | all galleries >> Places >> Virginia >> Far Southwest Virgina >> Clinch Mountain & Environs >> Russell Co. >> Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve >> Pinnacle NAP Trails >> Pinnacle NAP: Big Falls Trail tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Pinnacle NAP: Big Falls Trail

Big Falls Trail is an easy 1/2-mile trail along the remains of a gravel road through rich slope and cove forest to a riparian natural community.

The trailhead is located on the left along the Big Cedar Creek Trail just ahead of the lower parking area. Its terminus is at the creek-spanning waterfall called "Big Falls" on Big Cedar Creek.

Elevation at the trailhead is approx. 1,700 ft and approx. 1,675 ft at its terminus.

Passing between several boulders at the trailhead you travel the remains of a gravel road to Big Falls. Many years ago, when the property was owned by Russell Co. and known as Big Cedar Creek Park, folks could drive down to the waerfall where they'd enjoy family and group activities such as picnics, fishing, and swimming. As you hike the old roadbed you'll pass by Pitch Pine and Redbud, and proceed through a rare cedar grove of both White and Red Cedar. Big Cedar Creek is named for the Cedar found here. If you observe closely in early spring you may see green Juniper Hairstreak or brown Henry's Elfin butterflies among the cedar and redbud, and in early summer the rare Northern Metalmark butterfly possibly feeding on the orange Butterfly Weed.

Less than 1/4 mi up the trail on the left is the termins of Grapevine Hill Trail. A little further on the trail crests a small rise. While at the crest of the trail you may want to note how steep the slope is comming down on your left and how it drops almost precipitously down to Big Cedar Creek on your right where you can observe the much smaller Spring Falls through the trees. If you look again at the road cut of the embankment on your left you can see sedimentary strata of shale, sandstone, limestone, and dolomite accumulated from the Ordovician time and earlier when the area was awash with shallow seas laden with calcareous material. If you hike upstream along the creek from Big Falls to the area immediately below the rise of the trail above, you'll find a fascinating geologic feature where you can get an idea of just how violent and powerful the Alleghanian orogeny actually was. You'll observe that the bedrock of the surrounding hillside is thrust right out of the creek. It's impressive!

Picking-up where we left off, the trail continues down a gentle heavily shaded slope that levels-out as you approach rough stone steps leading to the falls. Descending, you feel the humidity increasing and hear the roar of the falls thundering over errosion resistant sandstone. You'll find a variety of ferns growing including Southern Bladder Fern, Northern Maidenhair Fern, Rattlesnake Grape Fern, Cliffbrakes, and Spleenworts, to name a few. In spring the rock face of the road cut is peppered with stunning blue blooms of Sharp-Lobed Hepatica, white inflorescences of Bloodroot and Large-Flowered Trillium, and nodding heads of Yellow Troutlily. As spring gives way to summer Fire Pink, Yellow Leafcup, American Alumroot, and Tall Bellflower emerge. Perhaps you'll even see Large Yellow Lady's Slipper.

Descending the steps past Sensitive Fern and Twinleaf you arrive at the captivating Big Falls. There's a long low wall to rest weary bones upon for a well-earned break.

Observing the falls you note that the opposite bank rises sharply out of the water in stark contrast to the almost perpendicular exposed strata spanning the entire width of Big Cedar Creek that the falls are flowing over. In the creek you see large rocks rounded and smooth by millenia of passing water, dark blue-green deep holes perfect for Trout, Smallmouth Bass, and Hellbender, and shallow riffles where you glimpse crayfish, shiners, and Tennesse Snubnose Darters. A small beach of fine gravel and numerous shell remains of freshwater mussels and snails extends from the creek to the foot of the wall where you sit. Damseflies flit and perch where they please as Dragonflies zoom and hover. Myriad Pipevine Swallowtails team at a muddy spot on the beach, ocassionally joined by a Hackberry Emperor or Zebra Swallowtail. Giant Swallowtails float lazily by in spring. A rare Baltimore checkerspot may sneak into view in early summer. Among the gravel and rocks are metallic green Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles, uncommon Green-Legged Spur-Throat Grasshoppers, and an assortment of other uncelebrated invertebrates.



Big Falls Trail Trailhead.JPG
Big Falls Trail Trailhead.JPG
Northern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum var. lucidulum).jpg
Northern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum var. lucidulum).jpg
Nocturnal Horse Fly (Tabanus trimaculatus).jpg
Nocturnal Horse Fly (Tabanus trimaculatus).jpg
Tiger Bee Fly (Xenox tigrinus).jpg
Tiger Bee Fly (Xenox tigrinus).jpg
Bear Grass Yucca aka Spainish Bayonet (Yucca filamentosa).JPG
Bear Grass Yucca aka Spainish Bayonet (Yucca filamentosa).JPG
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).jpg
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).jpg
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus).jpg
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus).jpg
Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica).JPG
Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica).JPG
Snow Covered Pines along Trail.JPG
Snow Covered Pines along Trail.JPG
Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida).jpg
Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida).jpg
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis).JPG
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis).JPG
Sassafrass (Sassafras albidum).JPG
Sassafrass (Sassafras albidum).JPG
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).JPG
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).JPG
Butterfly Weed or Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa).JPG
Butterfly Weed or Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa).JPG
Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia).JPG
Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia).JPG
Loomis Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum loomisii).JPG
Loomis Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum loomisii).JPG
Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).JPG
Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).JPG
Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana).JPG
Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana).JPG
Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense).jpg
Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense).jpg
Grapevine Hill Tail terminus.JPG
Grapevine Hill Tail terminus.JPG
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana).jpg
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana).jpg
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis).jpg
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis).jpg
Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus).jpg
Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus).jpg
Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici).JPG
Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici).JPG
Northern Metalmark (Calephelis borealis).jpg
Northern Metalmark (Calephelis borealis).jpg
Boulders on Trail.JPG
Boulders on Trail.JPG
Big Falls Trail.JPG
Big Falls Trail.JPG
Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava).JPG
Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava).JPG
Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii).JPG
Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii).JPG
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum).JPG
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum).JPG
Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens).JPG
Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens).JPG
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia var. sororia).JPG
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia var. sororia).JPG
Long-Spurred Violet (Viola rostrata).JPG
Long-Spurred Violet (Viola rostrata).JPG
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).jpg
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).jpg
Pursh's Wild Petunia (Ruellia purshiana).JPG
Pursh's Wild Petunia (Ruellia purshiana).JPG
Trail down to Big Falls.JPG
Trail down to Big Falls.JPG
White-Tailed Deer Fawn.jpg
White-Tailed Deer Fawn.jpg
Strata Exposed in a Road-Cut.JPG
Strata Exposed in a Road-Cut.JPG
Geologic Feature Along Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Geologic Feature Along Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Southern Bladder Fern aka Southern Fragile Fern (Cystopteris protusa).JPG
Southern Bladder Fern aka Southern Fragile Fern (Cystopteris protusa).JPG
Northern Maidenhair Ferns (Adiantum pedatum).JPG
Northern Maidenhair Ferns (Adiantum pedatum).JPG
Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum).JPG
Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum).JPG
Purple-Stemmed Clffbrake (Pellaea atropurpurea).JPG
Purple-Stemmed Clffbrake (Pellaea atropurpurea).JPG
Black-Stemmed Spleenwort (Asplenium resiliens).JPG
Black-Stemmed Spleenwort (Asplenium resiliens).JPG
Velvet Mites (Trombidiidae Sp).JPG
Velvet Mites (Trombidiidae Sp).JPG
Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca).JPG
Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca).JPG
Spirobolid Millipede (Narceus americanus).jpg
Spirobolid Millipede (Narceus americanus).jpg
Yellow Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius).jpg
Yellow Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius).jpg
Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) - Blue.JPG
Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) - Blue.JPG
Blood Root (Sanguinaria canadensis).JPG
Blood Root (Sanguinaria canadensis).JPG
Large-Flowered Trillium (Trillium  grandiflorum).jpg
Large-Flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).jpg
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum).JPG
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum).JPG
Fire Pink (Silene virginica).jpg
Fire Pink (Silene virginica).jpg
American Alum Root (Heuchera americana L. var. americana).JPG
American Alum Root (Heuchera americana L. var. americana).JPG
Bishop's Cap or Miterwort (Mitella diphylla).jpg
Bishop's Cap or Miterwort (Mitella diphylla).jpg
Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata).JPG
Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata).JPG
Foamflower (Tiarell cordifolia).JPG
Foamflower (Tiarell cordifolia).JPG
Tall Bellflower (Campanula americana).jpg
Tall Bellflower (Campanula americana).jpg
Yellow Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius).jpg
Yellow Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius).jpg
Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum).JPG
Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum).JPG
Big Falls from above.JPG
Big Falls from above.JPG
Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum).jpg
Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum).jpg
Bulblet Fern (Cystopteris bulbifera).JPG
Bulblet Fern (Cystopteris bulbifera).JPG
Fairy Wand or Devils Bit (Chamaelirium luteum).jpg
Fairy Wand or Devils Bit (Chamaelirium luteum).jpg
Tall Bellflower (Campanula americana).JPG
Tall Bellflower (Campanula americana).JPG
Wood Betany or Forest Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis).jpg
Wood Betany or Forest Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis).jpg
Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea).jpg
Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea).jpg
Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis).jpg
Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis).jpg
Steps to Big Falls.JPG
Steps to Big Falls.JPG
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).JPG
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).JPG
Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensiblilis).JPG
Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensiblilis).JPG
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla).JPG
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla).JPG
Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne).jpg
Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne).jpg
Wild Sensitive Plant (Chamaecrista nictitans).jpg
Wild Sensitive Plant (Chamaecrista nictitans).jpg
Wall at Big Falls.JPG
Wall at Big Falls.JPG
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).JPG
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).JPG
On Top of Big Falls.jpg
On Top of Big Falls.jpg
Big Falls.JPG
Big Falls.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek.jpg
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek.jpg
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek in Winter.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek in Winter.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek in Winter.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek in Winter.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Big Falls on Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Big Falls.JPG
Big Falls.JPG
Big Falls.JPG
Big Falls.JPG
Crayfish.jpg
Crayfish.jpg
Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus).jpg
Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus).jpg
Tennessee Snubnose Darter (Etheostoma simoterum).JPG
Tennessee Snubnose Darter (Etheostoma simoterum).JPG
Asian Clam and Snail Shells.jpg
Asian Clam and Snail Shells.jpg
Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta).jpg
Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta).jpg
Black-Shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus).jpg
Black-Shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus).jpg
Tachinid Fly (Exoristinae sp).JPG
Tachinid Fly (Exoristinae sp).JPG
Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor).jpg
Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor).jpg
Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis).JPG
Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis).JPG
Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus).jpg
Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus).jpg
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes).jpg
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes).jpg
Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton).JPG
Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton).JPG
Gray Comma (Polygonia progne).JPG
Gray Comma (Polygonia progne).JPG
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) - Winter Form.jpg
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) - Winter Form.jpg
Red-Spotted Purple (Limentis arthemis astyanax).jpg
Red-Spotted Purple (Limentis arthemis astyanax).jpg
Green-legged Spur-Throat Grasshopper (Melanoplus viridipes).jpg
Green-legged Spur-Throat Grasshopper (Melanoplus viridipes).jpg
Six-Spotted Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata).JPG
Six-Spotted Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata).JPG
Hoffman's Xystodesmid Millipede (Brachoria hoffmani).JPG
Hoffman's Xystodesmid Millipede (Brachoria hoffmani).JPG
Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes).JPG
Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes).JPG
Big Falls.jpg
Big Falls.jpg
Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Big Cedar Creek.JPG
Snow on Pitch Pine.jpg
Snow on Pitch Pine.jpg
Big Falls in Winter Panorama.jpg
Big Falls in Winter Panorama.jpg
Snow Bent Cedar.JPG
Snow Bent Cedar.JPG
Swimming - Boy Jumping From Waterfall.jpg
Swimming - Boy Jumping From Waterfall.jpg
Swimming - Boy on Waterfall.jpg
Swimming - Boy on Waterfall.jpg
Big Falls in Winter.JPG
Big Falls in Winter.JPG
Big Falls in Winter.JPG
Big Falls in Winter.JPG
Big Falls in Winter.JPG
Big Falls in Winter.JPG
Big Falls at Flood Stage.JPG
Big Falls at Flood Stage.JPG
Big Falls.JPG
Big Falls.JPG